One: In the Beginning

MK:In Spring of 1816, rumours swirl through Assiniboia--in today's southern Manitoba--that the Nor'Westers, men of the North West Company of fur traders, Métis hunters, Canadian engagés [contract employees], and clerks, are preparing for war against their commercial rivals, the Hudson's Bay Company. They face each other from their respective posts, Fort Gibraltar and Fort Douglas, near the juncture of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers known as the Forks. There are settlers a kilometre north in a loop of the Red, named Point Douglas.1.

June 19, 1816: a group of Métis and Nor'Westers disembark from a canoe at the mouth of Catfish Creek, where it empties, swift and muddy, into the Assiniboine. They have with them large bundles of pemmican that they transfer to oxcarts for transport overland north-east across the plain. At this point, the horsemen are still well away from the Selkirk settlers on the Red, and from Fort Douglas, downstream on the Red. In fact, they are deliberately avoiding fort and settlers. Or so they will claim.

But that evening of June 19, a watchman in Fort Douglas spots a group of the horsemen, some thirty-five of them, armed and riding in the direction of La Grenouillière or Frog Plain. They seem to be riding toward the settlement itself. The alarm is raised, Governor Robert Semple calls for volunteers, hands them muskets and ammunition, and marches out with them, some twenty-five-strong, to intercept and confront the horsemen. They meet at a bend in the river, in a grove of trees known as Seven Oaks.

What happened next has been called a battle, a skirmish, a massacre. It was over in fifteen minutes but it was long in the making, starting as early as the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company.

1. Point Douglas AKA 1813, Colony Gardens; 1817, 1826, Red River; 1858, Fort Garry--or Garry for short; 1873, Winnipeg.

La description

Award-winning nonfiction writer Myrna Kostash is the author of 10 books, including All of Baba’s Children and The Doomed Bridegroom. In 2010, she received the Writers Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award for A Writing Life.

The rivalry between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company for fur trade control in Canada came to an explosive climax on June 19, 1816, at the Battle of Seven Oaks. Indigenous allies of the NWC confronted armed colonists of the HBC’s settlement near today’s Winnipeg; the battle proved formative for Métis self-determination and became a legacy for future settlers. The Seven Oaks Reader incorporates period accounts and journals, histories, memoirs, songs and fictional retellings, offering an engaging and exciting way into still-controversial historical events.


Praise for The Seven Oaks Reader:
"Myrna Kostash provides a robust history of the Battle of Seven Oaks from a diverse range of perspectives, relying on primary and secondary sources, as well as original interviews with contemporary scholars. The Seven Oaks Reader includes all of the most relevant details about the events, accounts, and controversies that stem from Seven Oaks, and is accessible to scholars, students, and the public in general. "
~ Adam Gaudry, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Indigenous Studies, University of Saskatchewan
"In 1816 the Metis poet Pierre Falcon memorialized the Battle of Seven Oaks in a provocative Michif ballad. Two hundred years later Myrna Kostash offers us this beautifully detailed reader of facts and varied, often contradictory, opinions about the tragic event. "
~ Rudy Wiebe, author of Where The Truth Lies